Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Waiting On A Cross Border Sewage Fix

 July 23, 2021 at 3:45 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s It’s Friday July 23rd >>>> When WILL we see a fix for the cross border sewage flow problem? More on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines…. ###### San Diego hospitals are seeing a spike in covid-19 patients. According to the county’s most recent data, 52-00 unvaccinated people have been hospitalized since January; that's compared to only 20 vaccinated people hospitalized. Dr. William Tseng is a hospitalist at Kaiser Permanente San diego. He says the new delta variant is driving the spike in cases. “the delta variant is about 225% more transmissible cause you have over a thousand times more copies of the virus in you. You’re going to cough out a thousand more times of the virus. you’re going to transmit more, so there’s a strong correlation.” ######## Efforts to build a bridge over the San Diego river in Mission trails regional park took a giant step forward thursday. San Diego city council member Raul Campillo announced a one-and-a-half million dollar grant from the state. The bridge was planned for years, but the need became more urgent after 21-year old Max Lenail died in January while trying to cross the river back. Max’ Fathers, Ben Lenail, says the bridge is what his son would’ve wanted. “we want to really mark that site and have something that is a very long term testament to his life.” He says they hope to have the bridge finished in two years. ######### Pacific gas and electric says they’re going to start burying ten thousand of miles of power lines to reduce its risk of sparking wildfires. PG&E says it appears the dixie fire in butte county began when a tree fell on one of its lines. The utility has also been found responsible for several wildfires in the past few years, including the Camp Fire, which killed 84 people in Paradise, california. ######### From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. This probably comes as little surprise that a recent statewide water quality report found San Diego’s South Bay has two of the state’s most polluted beaches….and those two beaches? It’s the ones fouled by cross border sewage flows from Mexico. There IS federal help set aside for fixing it, but that fix isn’t coming right away. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has more. It was a bright morning at the Chula Vista Bayside Park when local politicians delivered the good news. Congressman Mike Levin We have successfully secured 300 million dollars under the border water infrastructure program to aggressively address the cross-border pollution from the Tijuana River Valley” Billions of gallons of sewage tainted water had been flowing into the United States for months. Locals were hopeful because signs warning of polluted ocean water go up even in the normally dry summer conditions. But that optimistic news was announced nearly 18 months ago. Three of the local politicians present, Kevin Faulconer, Susan Davis and Greg Cox, no longer hold public office. And the Environmental Protection Agency has yet to decide how to spend the 300 million dollars. “In August we hope to identify the preferred project alternatives.” Tomás Torres is the director of the water division in the EPA’s region nine office. “And once we do that they will undergo a pretty comprehensive environmental analysis.” San Diego County officials identified 27 possible projects to control the flows. The largest is a new sewage treatment plant capable of treating 163 million gallons of tainted water a day. “This would be in the U.S. it would capture these flows and we’re looking at various treatment capacity options of what size that plant should be to provide the most protection at the optimum cost. As you probably know, infrastructure in the US is very costly.” A plant would cost more than the 300-million dollars set aside in the EPA’s budget requiring officials to find more money. And some of that federal money could end up paying for projects in Mexico. “We were analyzing projects that would make improvements to Tijuana’s wastewater conveyance system in order to reduce sewage from entering the Tijuana River in the first place.” That has roiled some San Diego clean water advocates who fear money spent south of the border is ineffective. They want projects built on this side of the border. The contamination issue is nothing new to San Diego County District 1 Supervisor Nora Vargas. She’s worked to fix the problem for decades. “Tijuana River Valley contamination is not a San Diego District 1 issue. And it’s not a Tijuana issue. There’s a global international issue that we need to address together and it’s going to take all of us coming together.” Vargas convinced the board of supervisors to declare the situation in the Tijuana River Valley a public health crisis, the first time it has been considered more than an environmental issue. “I actually feel that things are starting to move forward.” But Vargas also acknowledges that the problem won’t be fixed by the end of this year or even next. EPA officials expect to unveil their preferred alternatives next month (in August). The EPA’s Tomás Torres says that will start the clock on mandated environmental reviews meaning there will be no shovels in the ground anytime soon. “Even though it is a lengthy process we’ve been able to cut that down to less than half the time it normally takes.” That won’t help this summer, next summer or even the summer after that. Imperial Beach mayor Serge Dedina says short term relief may come from state and local officials who are working on some projects in canyons. Or relief could come elsewhere. “At this point it really depends on Mexico. If Mexico wants to not dump sewage along the beach, we’ll have a good summer. But if they continue to do what they do, which is dump sewage everywhere in the Tijuana River as well as along the beach, you know, it could be an unhappy summer for us.” Dedina is hopeful about the EPA’s movement. If the agency efforts stall, local municipalities and clean water groups could revive federal lawsuits seeking to force the government to clean up the problem. Erik Anderson KPBS News ########## Former San Dieguito trustee Ty Humes wants his seat back. but voters will have to look past a checkered history. inewsource investigative reporter jennifer bowman has more. Before he was recalled, Ty Humes’ resume was so impressive that it got him a seat on the San Dieguito school board. But inewsource found Humes held a fundraiser that left the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation with unpaid bills. The nonprofit never saw any proceeds, and vendors are still owed nearly thirty thousand dollars. Humes blames a sponsor who he says never paid up. HUMES: “So I did not obviously walk away from it. That's not my personality or how I operate.” San Dieguito’s special election is in November. INEWSOURCE IS AN INDEPENDENTLY FUNDED, NONPROFIT PARTNER OF KPBS. ########## People from San Marcos rallied outside Darrel Issa’s office on Thursday, regarding immigration. KPBS north county reporter Tania Thorne has more. Members of the organization “Justice Overcoming Boundaries” organized a rally outside of Darrell Issa's San Marcos district office Thursday afternoon. They want Mr. Issa to address immigration in his district. The members say immigrants are just as American as apple pie and rice and beans. When they approached his office the door was locked and there was no response. Over the phone an intern said Mr Issa and his chief of staff were both in Washington DC. ESTELA DE LOS RIOS is with the organization, “ the constituents that are here we have to hold him accountable. Immigration is an issue that he needs to address and were going to keep coming back until he listens.” We did reach out to Mr Issas office for a statement but none was provided. In San Marcos, TT KPBS news. ########## San Diego’s former mayor, now Republican recall candidate Kevin Faulconer says he helped reduce homlessness in San Diego by double digits when he was the city’s mayor and would tackle California’s problem head-on as governor. CapRadio’s PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols examined Faulconer’s accomplishments as mayor in this week’s Can You Handle The Truth segment. He spoke with anchor Randol White. ANCHOR: Chris, Kevin Faulconer has made his record on homelessness a central part of his run for governor. What did he accomplish on the topic? CHRIS: Faulconer was San Diego’s mayor from 2014 to 2020. And Randol, he can point to some achievements -- such as opening new shelters for up to 1,000 people … expanding safe lots where people who live in their cars can legally park and also increasing funding for homeless initiatives. But advocates for homeless people, along with some political observers have criticized Faulconer for being a reluctant leader on these issues -- They say he really only made homelessness a top priority in 2017 -- that’s when a Hepatitis A outbreak spread across San Diego’s homeless population, leaving hundreds sick and killing 20 people. ANCHOR: That’s right, that was a horrific outbreak and made national headlines. Let’s listen to what Faulconer says he accomplished. Here he is during a June interview with Fox 11 in Los Angeles. Faulconer Fox 11 interview: “We have to get people off the sidewalks. As mayor of San Diego, I did not allow tent encampments in San Diego. We’re the only big city where we actually reduced homelessness by double digits. (:10) ANCHOR: Chris, let’s start by fact-checking Faulconer’s claim that he did not allow tent encampments in San Diego. Is that correct? CHRIS: That statement is generally correct. But it needs some context. Faulconer was aggressive in using law enforcement to clear encampments, especially in downtown San Diego. That enforcement was combined with efforts by the police to connect people with shelters. But again observers point out that Faulconer only made this a priority after the Hepatitis A outbreak. And they describe this approach as ‘a short-term fix.’ Here is San Diego Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna: 01Luna on encampments: “At a certain point, the mayor took action to try to clear the tent encampments that you saw all over sidewalks and freeway onramps across downtown San Diego in particular. But there were tent encampments when he became mayor. There were tent encampments during the time he was mayor. And there were pockets of them that existed even afterward. So, he didn’t get rid of all of them. And didn’t get rid of them permanently because they’re now back.” (:22) This effort did result in more people going to shelters. But advocates say it also moved many homeless people into neighborhoods outside the downtown, which separated them from services and made it harder to count them during annual surveys. ANCHOR: Speaking of the homeless surveys, Faulconer also makes the claim that San Diego saw a double digit reduction in homelessness, the only big city to do that. Is he right about that? CHRIS: Faulconer is basing this statement on San Diego’s most recent point in time count, comparing homelessness in early 2020 to the year before. 01Brady: “The statistic can be a little misleading.” (:04) That is John Brady. He is a board member on the nonprofit that conducts the San Diego survey “The true statistic is the mayor under his leadership saw a 12 percent reduction in unsheltered homelessness. It wasn’t a reduction in total homelessness.” (:11) Brady also says there were some changes in how the homeless count was conducted in the years leading up to 2020, based on guidance from the federal government. These changes led to a more limited count of homeless individuals. And when the report came out that Faulconer is citing, Brady says he advised the public not to compare the results to past homeless counts. -- END -- That was CapRadio’s PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols. ########## Coming up.... A look at the San Diego local arts events coming up in our weekend preview. That’s next, just after the break. If you have an open weekend and are thinking you wanna look into the local arts scene, KPBS’ Arts Editor and Producer Julia Dixon Evans is here with her weekend preview. Here’s Julia… That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Ways To Subscribe
Federal money has been set aside to fix the cross border sewage flows fouling local beaches, but that solution remains a long way off. And, fact checking on claims by San Diego’s Former Mayor Kevin Faulconer now Republican Recall Election Candidate. Plus, a preview of this weekend’s local arts events.